AGM – GS Cymru Report Highlights Language Issues

The report on events in Cymru by the General Secretary to the Falkirk AGM was dominated by language issues (see below):

“Cymru

Language

There have been a number of positive moves in the development of the Welsh language over the last year, but there are still a number of concerns.

The Minister of Education (Wales) announced at the Welsh National Eisteddfod in Wrexham in August 2011 that the Welsh Government is planning plans to publish a strategy for the development of the Welsh language in everyday life next year. The publication of an annual report by the Welsh Government in July 2011 on how Welsh has progressed over the last year shows that the language needs to expand more quickly in certain areas, if the government’s own targets are to be met.

A number of prejudicial articles in English newspapers about the Welsh people and the Welsh language in 2011 have provoked strong reactions from campaigners and politicians, claiming that the newspapers are bigoted and would not dare to criticise other races and their languages in the same way.

A hotel in the north of Wales was also criticised in May 2011 for asking employees to stop speaking Welsh while at work, showing that the language is still weak in terms of protection within the private sector. The creation of the Welsh Language Commissioner role, as part of the Welsh Language Measure, means that there is now an official person who will have the power to condict inquiries into matters relating to the Welsh language.
The Commissioner will also advise the Welsh Government and other bodies on language policy and is expected to deliver the Welsh Government’s new regulatory system, to ensure Welsh language services are delivered to the public. The appointment of the Commissioner is
intended to confirm the official status of the Welsh language. Meri Huws was appointed Commissioner by the First Minister in October 2011.

In March 2010 the Heritage Minister (Wales) published the proposed Measure on the Welsh Language and the Measure received „Royal Consent‟ in February 2011. The Measure meets the three One Wales commitments by confirming the official status of Welsh, providing the means for establishing linguistic rights in the provision of services, and creating the post of Language Commissioner.

S4C

The UK Government decided in October 2010 that S4C would have its budget cut and that the future funding of S4C should pass entirely to the BBC and be supported by licence fees. The move has been criticised heavily by Welsh language campaigners, over a hundred of whom have refused to pay their licence fee out of protest, including the President of Plaid Cymru, Jilll Evans MEP. It is argued that the independence of S4C is necessary in view of the fact that S4C is the only Welsh language television channel in the world and plays a pivotal role in the development of Welsh language programming and that if S4C was tied to the BBC in terms of funding, its broadcasting integrity would be severely compromised, which would include its editorial independence.

Election 2011

Of all the Celtic countries taking part in the elections on 5th May, Wales represents the biggest disappointment in terms of the nationalist vote, where it suffered its worst defeat since devolution in 1999. As a result of the election Plaid Cymru moved from being a governing party with Labour in the Welsh coalition government, to third place with 11 seats (a drop of 4 seats) gained out of a possible 60. The Conservative Party won 14 seats and the Labour Party won 30 seats, with only the Liberal Democrat Party winning fewer seats than Plaid with 5, which was a drop of only one. No other party or independent in Wales was successful in winning a seat and turnout was only approximately 42%, which was slightly down on the 2007 election. Another surprise was the loss of the seat of the Conservative Party leader in Wales, Nick Bourne. Despite gaining a bigger share of the seats than any other party the Labour Party in Wales is still one seat short from gaining an overall majority

Referendum and Legislative Powers

The Welsh referendum resulted in an overwhelming `yes’ vote to the proposal to grant direct law making powers to the Welsh Assembly when the electorate voted in March 2011. When the last result was declared, all 22 counties except one – Monmouthshire – backed change. The turnout was 35.4%. The final result saw 517,132 vote Yes, and 297,380 say No – a 63.5% to 36.5% winning margin.

The new Welsh Assembly that formed in June 2011 became be the most powerful legislative Welsh parliamentary body that Wales has had since the inauguration of Owain Glyndwr’s Parliament in the fifteenth century. When the Senedd convened on 6th June, it had competence over the 20 `Fields’ and `Matters’ under the Government of Wales Act 2006, and is now able to pass laws in these areas without needing the approval of the UK Parliament in London. Other changes that were also evident were the official change in name from the `Welsh Assembly Government’ to the `Welsh Government’. The Senedd however still does 15
not have the official title of `Parliament’ in English (although in Welsh `Senedd’ means both Parliament and Assembly) and this was one of the reasons why nationalists criticized the Government of Wales Act 2006 so heavily.

Return of artefacts

The Director of Museums Archives and Libraries of Wales (CyMAL), Linda Tomos, told the Celtic League that the return of artefacts to Wales is not “part of current Welsh Government strategy”. Linda Tomos explained that even though the Welsh Government is not prepared to call for the return of Welsh artefacts that are being held elsewhere, they intend to work with UK institutions to ensure that material is accessible to the people of Wales.

Independence

Delegates at Plaid Cymru‟s autumn conference in September 2011 reaffirmed their commitment to independence. A motion pledging the party to securing “independence for Wales in Europe” was backed overwhelmingly by delegates in Llandudno. This signalled a difference to assertions before from the party, because Plaid had previously stated it aimed for “full national status for Wales within the European Union”.

AV referendum

Like the other Celtic countries, Wales did not vote in favour of AV, but more people were comparatively in favour of AV there than in England, as was the case with all the Celtic countries.

Census 2011

For the first time, the Welsh had their own separate tick box on the Census 2011 forms. Question 15 asked „How would you describe your national identity?‟ and the tick box “Welsh‟ was included after „English‟. The Census took place on 27 March 2011.

Welsh Office

The presiding officer for the Senedd/Welsh Assembly Government, Dafydd Elis-Thomas, who is a Plaid Cymru member, caused a debate in March by suggesting that the Welsh Office ministry should be scrapped, following the vote on greater legislative powers for Wales.”

For comment or clarification on this news item in the first instance contact:

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, General Secretary, Celtic League:

Tel: 0044 (0)1209 319912
M: 0044 (0)7787318666

gensec@celticleague.net

The General Secretary will determine the appropriate branch or General Council Officer to respond to your query.

ISSUED BY THE CELTIC LEAGUE INFORMATION SERVICE.

31/10/11

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